Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The one where I meet the nicest Tony Award-winner ever

Monday, July 12

This is the beginning of a very busy week.  At 8:00, I'm in line for a season EPA for Vermont's Northern Stage.  For the second time, I join a line of actors that neatly snakes back and forth through the lobby of Ripley Grier Studios.  We're let in at 8:45, just as everyone starts to get really grouchy about the heat.  I'm #2 on the non-Equity list, and they aren't seeing anyone until 10:00, so I schlep my stuff a few blocks to Telsey + Company for another EPA for Hairspray at Paper Mill Playhouse (NJ).  I'm somewhere in the 20s on the non-Equity list, so I go back to wait at Ripley Grier.  I settle in and start on my hair and makeup.  

The most exciting thing about the Northern Stage season, for me, is The Wizard of Oz.  I'm still figuring out what I'm right for, but I'm positive I would make a fantastic Dorothy Gale.  I even braid my hair in French-braided pigtails and curl the ends.  By about 11:00, I find out that the Northern Stage call has been closed to non-Equity.  Lame.  I really wanted to at least be seen for Dorothy. :(  I take out my braids and head for Telsey + Co.  

The energy here is weird.  In passing and in the bathroom, I hear more than a couple people say how they think the show is already cast.  With Equity, there's always a chance that an audition is being held out of union obligations, not because they're actually looking for actors to cast.  Equity members are asked for a full 1960s pop song.  From EMCs and non-Equity, they only want to hear 16 bars.  I am literally the last person in line before the 2:00 lunch--not the best place to be.  But I sing and feel okay about it.  This is one of those days where for some reason, I feel like my voice has just woken up a half-hour ago, even though it's afternoon.  It could have been better, but it definitely could have been worse.  I thank them and tell them to enjoy their lunch.

That night at 7:30, I go to a discussion with Tony-winning actress Katie Finneran.  She's currently starring on Broadway alongside Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth in Promises, Promises, for which she won her Tony last month.  I saw an ad for the discussion in Backstage a couple weeks ago.  It's free (donation suggested), and all I had to do to reserve my spot was call and give them my name.  It's in the HB Studios Foundation Theatre where Katie trained with the famous Uta Hagen a number of years back.  

Katie is fantastic.  She's sweet and down-to-earth and absolutely genuine.  It's nice to know that actors so accomplished and well-known can still be such nice human beings.  As a matter of fact, this is Monday--her night off.  She's here on her own time to give back. :) I thoroughly enjoy her talk and her advice.  She's one of those actors that obviously had talent to begin with, but hers was no overnight success.  She didn't have one lucky break.  Her story is one of hard work and dilligence.  This is her nineteenth year in New York.  She talks about her Tony acceptance speech and how, in retrospect, she wasn't talking so much to the kids at home when she said to follow your heart and don't let anyone stop you; she was talking to her twelve-year-old self.  Whoever she was talking to, I got it.

After the discussion, Katie graciously greets everyone in the lobby.  "Hi, I'm Katie," she says, introducing herself to everyone with a wide smile and warm handshake.  Of course you're Katie, I think to myself.  We all know who you are.  I thank her for giving up her time to be here and make sure she knows how inspired I was by her Tony acceptance speech the month before.  "I just sat at home in Seattle and cried.  Thank you for talking to your twelve-year-old self because all I could think was, that's exactly how I feel.  Those are my dreams, and that's where I want to be someday."

I walk away feeling incredibly grateful to have met Katie Finneran tonight.  Her wise words and warm spirit are just what I needed after what, until now, had felt like a pretty unsuccessful day.  Bless you, Katie.  And congratulations! :)

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